Heavy drinking at Otago Uni falls

The Hyde St party in full flight. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
The Hyde St party in full flight. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
Scarfies are getting drunk  less often, but they are still drinking to intoxication more than students at other universities, a new study suggests.

The study pinpointed the University of Otago’s crackdown on poor behaviour as a possible cause for the decline in heavy drinking.

Covering a period when student haunts the "Gardies" and the Bowling Green Tavern closed, the study also found students were less likely to drink in pubs than in previous years.

In 2005, 40% of respondents  at Otago University had drunk to intoxication in the previous seven days, compared with about 25% of students at Lincoln, Victoria and Waikato,  according to surveys cited in the study.

By 2013, the proportion of Otago students who had got drunk in the past seven days had dropped to 25%, while the proportion of Lincoln, Victoria and Waikato university students drinking themselves to intoxication in the previous week was down to just 19%.

However, the prevalence of drinking at Otago remained high. Ninety-five percent of Otago students had consumed alcohol in the past four weeks in 2005. That proportion was down just four points, to 91%, eight years later.

The study also found students were drinking at the pub much less than in previous years. In 2005, 74% of Otago students had drunk at a pub in the previous seven days, versus just 52% in 2013.

Prof Kypros Kypri, of the university’s department of preventive and social medicine, said it showed the university’s involvement in objecting to licence renewals possibly created a tipping point for businesses that had survived by breaching server laws.

Yesterday, Prof Kypri rejected the suggestion this encouraged more dangerous drinking at private residences.

"I don’t think licensed premises are these carefully managed places.

"My experience in Dunedin ... was if things got really out of hand, bouncers showed up, and it wasn’t necessarily a positive development.

"I think the idea they’re somehow safer is really more myth than evidence-based."

Prof Kypri said he was pleased the levels of heavy drinking had reduced since he was a student at the University of Otago some 20 years ago.

"I’ve got a son who has just finished his schooling in Newcastle, where we live, and he’s going to Otago in February.

"And I have to say I’m glad it’s more moderate than it was."

george.block@odt.co.nz

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